A pair of teen detectives bops between London and Cairo in a steampunk adventure that would probably make a better movie than it does a book.
Octavia Nightingale and Sebastian Tweed return in this sequel to The Lazarus Machine (2012), solving mysteries in a Victorian London jam-packed with automatons powered by human souls and carriages running on Tesla turbines. Their search for Octavia’s kidnapped mother entangles them in a larger mystery, with missing scientists and Egyptophile cultists around every corner. Each solved puzzle reveals a further complication: traitors, lizard people, rocket launchers—even a secret world. Perhaps the number of threads is too many to keep under control; some characters are dropped abruptly, while one major arc comes to a character-building ending without ever developing through a beginning or middle. The overall mystery is impenetrable, but the set dressing of “vacuum tubes and wiring...tools and gears, clocks, glass beakers filled with strange liquids, and disassembled automatons” makes the right backdrop for a novel that climaxes with an airship-vs.-ornithopter dogfight over London. Purists take note: Among the myriad errors and inconsistencies are copious anachronisms detracting from the Victorian feel.
Busy, but at least there’s a death ray. (Steampunk. 15-17)